Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
Learning how to Cross Country Ski at Salmon Ridge (Mt. Baker)
Todd Elsworth

I was excited to get back on X-C skis and get out for a bit of classic skiing at Salmon Ridge. I had talked about the opportunities for classic skiing with friends, done some searching, and signed up for a beginner clinic to get me back on the right track. You may like to read the background story that sowed the seeds for me to get back into this active winter sport and explore our local trails. For the record: I’m a skier. I ski uphill (telemark/touring), I ski downhill (alpine), and I ski around in the hills (cross-country). I have enjoyed snowboarding and going down hill with other things strapped to my feet as well- any way I can find to get OUT THERE and play.

We would¬†all like to ski more than we are often afforded at points in our lives. As a consequence, when we’re ready to jump back in- a little refresher course and some training tips may be in order. Fortunately, Fairhaven Bike and Mountain Sports had partnered with local Ski Super Star Todd Eastman to offer a free clinic to introduce people to cross-country skis and skiing. In the pouring rain, Eastman walked the 7 of us who showed up, through the basics of classic cross-country skiing. He started by introducing us to the ski itself and how we were going to get the most out of our relationship by understanding it’s shape and form.

Todd Eastman introducing the cross country ski to clinic at Salmon Ridge/Mt. Baker.

Next, we slid our skis and pushed our poles to glide across the flat trails near the parking lot. Todd’s dry humor and insights into efficient skiing helped mask the fact that we were standing out in the pouring rain.¬† We did short 50 yard runs back and forth to get the basics down. Our instructor stood on the sidelines and shared his ski wisdom with a gentle and unassuming voice . After some practice and helpful insights from Todd, our feet and arms were working together.

Todd Eastman cross country ski clinic at Salmon Ridge/Mt. Baker.

As we made our way into the wilderness, we’d stop for a bit more instruction and another layer of information to consider- trying to put some form to function gliding over the frozen ground. Todd is a professional skier and his master teacher approach to sharing information in a humorous way helped make it all the more fun. We were shown the nuances of body positioning by bending at our ankles and our knees. He demonstrated how our hands were to behave in relation to our arms and bodies. We mimicked his motions as we took the time to follow along one step at a time. Passersby might have thought we were a bit “off our rockers” at one point, because Todd had us jumping up and down in place to demonstrate a technique.

Todd Eastman cross country ski clinic at Salmon Ridge/Mt. Baker.

Then, we got to the hill where we did laps learning how to ski uphill, stop and turn around, and then ski down the hill. We also learned how to slow down and stop- seemingly essential aspects of this slippery sport. We all had varying degrees of experience in the clinic. Most were beginners, some advanced, and we all appreciated the experience. The thing that we all had in common was that we wanted to become more comfortable on skis. For two hours, we got great instruction and evolved from a group of strangers standing out in the rain into our own (albeit temporary) ski club cheering for one another as we tried our new moves.

The clinic provided me exactly what I needed- comfort on cross-country skis and and introduction where to go enjoy this classic sport. I recommend taking a course if you can or follow some of the insight we received and just watch other people out on the trails. You can tell who knows what they’re doing and who is just forcing it along. As we stood saying our goodbyes, an older man in his 70’s (or older) sped on past us- with flawless form. It was perfect timing to punctuate what Todd had been telling us all day about the efficiencies you can attain in skiing and how there are plenty of examples out there to watch.

As the “Ol Timer” cruised off into the distance, I was comforted by the fact that I have the opportunity for plenty of ski days ahead of me. Classic X-C Ski Touring is a great way to get out for a bit (or a lot) of low-impact exercise while exploring a bit of nature in the process. Since the clinic, I have been able to make it back out on the trails and even brought my daughter along in a sled.

 

 

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About the Author:

As the co-Executive Director of Recreation Northwest and the founder of the Bellingham Traverse, Todd promotes outdoor recreation and brings people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. He enjoys biking, hiking, paddling, skiing and will try anything twice. Get connected at RecreationNorthwest.org.

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